The Trumbull-based Friends of Appalachia skipped the Fourth of July this year.
Since June 30, the 44 volunteers have been fixing up homes for the residents of Chapmanville, W.Va., in the Appalachian Mountains. The group, formed in 2009, is a non-profit open to all denominations and people. Its first trip was in 2010.
The Rev. Hal Vink, former pastor of the , gave the group a sendoff. "This is my fifth time, at least as I can remember."
"You're going as emissaries of this community. You're here because God wants you to be here ... and he'll be there the whole time," Vink said.
He quoted the Gospel writer Matthew: "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
FOA's crews worked all this week and more crews will follow in the coming summer weeks, said John Nigro, a volunteer. The Appalachian Service Projects Inc. coordinates all the volunteers across the country.
"Just getting to the work site is difficult," he said. "It is a rich experience. Kids discover new gifts they don't know that they're capable of."
Help for Appalachia also came from other drives, such tag sales and a drive collecting dental care items, according to Nigro.
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FOA volunteers, made up primarily of high school and college-aged youth and adult advisors, collected almost 2,800 items, including toothpaste, tooth brushes, dental floss, and more. Donations were collected at Trumbull High School, as well as from family, friends, and dentists of the FOA participants. These items will be used to support Kids First Dental Services’ efforts to provide preventive dental care to children, Preschool-12th grade, particularly among low-income children.
In 2010, FOA collected more than 2,000 dental supplies. “Our FOA participants did a great job collecting dental supplies and we’re grateful to all the donors who participated in this project. We’re pleased that we can provide so many necessary supplies to impoverished children in Kentucky,” said Anna Henry, FOA President.
FOA has also donated school supplies, quilts, and other items to help improve the standard of living in the poverty stricken area.
FOA is open to all, and strives to educate and sensitize youth and adult volunteers to address the needs of the impoverished people in Central Appalachia. In addition to ASP, FOA supports Kids First Dental Care, and Mission of Hope.